Second City Hockey’s 2021-22 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2021. The rankings are determined by a composite score from all four SCH writers. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. All four ballots will be released after the series is completed.
Arvid Soderblom had a hell of a rookie season in the Swedish Hockey League. Having played in just two SHL games before this season, Soderblom vied for the starting role with Skelleftea AIK and finished the season a .922 save percentage in 22 games played. He also finished with four shutouts before playing two SHL playoff games with a .951 save percentage.
Did I mention Soderblom is just 22?
He’s the youngest goaltender signed to the Blackhawks (Drew Commesso and Dominic Basse are not yet signed, as even though you can now get paid for your name and likeness, getting a contract is still a no-no in “amateur athletics”) and if he can do for the Blackhawks what he did for Skelleftea, there’s a chance he could be the best in a few years.
That’s not a high chance, as he would need to transition his play from European ice to North American ice and do so in a way that separates him from a very packed crowd for the future of Chicago’s starter’s net. But, again, there’s a chance.
In his age 22 season with HIFK, Kevin Lankinen had a .920 save percentage in 42 games, with seven shutouts. The problem is, the Finnish Liiga is a lesser league than the SHL, and Lankinen was not a rookie — having played 22 games the prior season with HIFK.
Other Swedish netminders transitioned effectively from the SHL to the NHL on lesser seasons than the one Soderblom just put up. Linus Ullmark came to North America from Sweden after a .905 season with MODO and has been arguably Buffalo’s best goaltender for the past few seasons. Also, getting close to a good save percentage with that Sabres defense? A miracle.
Soderblom will likely be in the AHL with Rockford next season, and perhaps the season after that. Soderblom will probably take the backup role behind either Collin Delia or Malcolm Subban as he transitions to the North American game. But there are high hopes for Soderblom, and there should be.
If the Blackhawks give Soderblom a chance, they may have found a dependable, trustworthy netminder. The European scouting department has pulled off similar feats before, and that’s one of the few reasons the team is even where it is right now.